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West Fargo school board's approval final nod for aquatics facility feasibility study

A proposed West Fargo aquatics facility needed one more vote of approval to move forward with a feasibility study.

That vote came Monday.

The West Fargo School Board unanimously approved an equal split of the $60,000 cost of commissioning a feasibility study for a community center and aquatics facility.

The board previously participated in a joint meeting with the city and park district in February, when a memorandum of understanding originally was adopted. At that time, it was decided that seven elements be specifically addressed: creating a timeline, determining the components of a facility, identifying potential locations, determining estimates of initial construction costs and annual operational costs, identifying funding sources for construction and operation costs, and suggesting a model for the potential governance structure to manage the facility.

Since then, several suggestions have been made.

The joint group estimated that the feasibility study would be ready to share by September.

The components of the facility should include competitive and recreational swimming venues, lessons, therapy, a multi-use gymnasium, locker rooms and various office and meeting space.

A proposed location is a 10-acre site owned by the West Fargo Park District on 26th Avenue East.

Initial construction cost estimates range anywhere from $16 million to $22.4 million, however annual operational costs could not be estimated "due to the multiple options and complexities," a memo released to the school board Monday said.

Potential funding sources for construction could include a proposed half-cent sales takes for the city of West Fargo, a fundraising campaign through a private citizen group, potential capital contribution from the park district for outdoor recreational swimming, and from the school district for indoor competition.

Annual operation costs funding ranged from concessions and pro shops to rental fees and leases.

It was suggested that the West Fargo Park District be given control of the feasibility study process, "with the understanding that the school district and city will participate in all aspects of the project," the memo stated.

With an overloaded L.E. Berger pool and aging Veterans Memorial Pool, board members concluded that it was in everyone's best interest to construct another option for the community.

"It's never going to be more than it is today," business manager Mark Lemer said of the L.E. Berger pool. "In fact, it is over utilized as it is."

With the school district expanding to a second high school and middle school, the board agreed there would be an impending need for additional space to accommodate athletic swimming teams, as well as club groups and other organizations.

In other news, West Fargo High School principal Corey Steiner requested a contract release.

In a letter to administration, Steiner cited "personal and professional reasons," as reasons to allow him release from his contract for 2012-13 school year.

"I look forward to reading and hearing about the accomplishments of the district as it continues to transform itself from good to great," he wrote.